The concept of reviewing “post-occupancy performance” is not exactly new but isn’t common either, as it is commonly reserved for newly built or renovated ecofriendly buildings. 

Yet how do we assess outdoor areas surrounding structures, like courtyards and pathways?

This is a question that occurred to architect and University of Sydney lecturer Dr Ozgur Gocer when she was completing a PhD degree at the Istanbul Technical University in Turkey. Based in the Istanbul suburbs, she spent the entire school day on campus, transitioning between interior and exterior spaces. She became concerned with those outdoor spaces that connect buildings with the environment.

Dr Gocer longed to discover the reason that certain spaces were streaming with people and others were virtually unused. This inspired her to conduct an experiment involving a post occupancy evaluation of the college’s outdoor environment.

When surveyed, respondents were generally pleased with their outdoor spaces on campus. Yet when these spaces were monitored, a deeper truth was revealed.

The researchers discovered that certain spaces proved less comfortable because of windy corridors, and spaces sans shady spots were vacant in the summertime.

Individuals met in cafes, as well as at building entrances that would provide shelter from the weather.

People are inherently social, and they like to occupy spaces with other people. Individuals also favour highly visible spaces with access to important facilities.

Dr Gocer says that we are now more and more aware of the value of exterior places surrounding structures, with studies revealing that employees and pupils who spend more time outside are happier and healthier.

Some institutions, in fact, do not provide indoor cafes, instead encouraging employees to take their breaks outside.

Dr Gocer asserts that the assessment of post-occupancy performance of exterior spaces is practical for college campuses, which usually are comprised of many buildings and connecting outdoor areas. The plan also would work in other multifaceted structures, like schools, medical centres and corporate parks.

Post occupancy evaluations are a prime component of the design process, revealing unexpected challenges, challenge design ideas and permit designers to learn and improve.

Building structures must be assessed soon in the wake of occupation, where initial performance is measured against the objectives and expectations set throughout the design process. These assessments monitor well-being, safety, function, mental and emotional comfort, aesthetic value and the contentment of occupants.

Dr Gocer asserts that the outdoor environment presented challenges to traditional methods applied to indoor spaces.

Of course, the climate cannot be monitored outside, which makes assessment more complex. And, unlike structures occupied by specific occupants, all varieties of individuals are making their way across collegiate campuses, which renders user surveys tough to control.

The last methodology, which she deems “spatio-temporal mapping”, coordinates user, space and microclimate environment info to assemble a holistic portrait of how these regions perform.